It is that time of the year again. We abandon our hobbies from the summer, accept the lack of tan we were able to obtain over the break and prepare ourselves for the overwhelming amount of mental stimulation that is to come. Some of the student population finds the challenge of college enjoyable, but others suffer from back-to-school anxiety.
As society has evolved, a college education has become more essential to job security. Rather than education being a privilege, students feel like it is more of an obligation and burden.
A 2019 Harvard study focused on the causes of back-to-school anxiety in college students. Common contributors to anxiety can be adjusting to new living situations, heavy workloads or maintaining a high GPA while still searching for that individual identity.
In the report, the American College Health Association was cited for their Fall 2018 National College Health Assessment where they found that 63% of college students across the country were suffering from severe anxiety in the past year. The study also stated that 23% were diagnosed or treated by mental health professionals for anxiety.
Many Virginia Tech students expressed their reasoning for concern for the upcoming fall semester.
“I have the most anxiety from trying to get good grades,” said Allison Zeher, a senior majoring in biochemistry. “I have high expectations for myself, and with challenging classes, it’s hard to meet those expectations.”
Zeher is not alone. Victoria French, a senior majoring in sustainable biomaterials, said that the fear of failure makes her “the most anxious” about school. But grades are not the only cause for nervousness this fall.
Social anxiety has crept into the minds of several students. Sam Morency, a senior majoring in computer science, said she has “pretty bad social anxiety” and offered some advice on how she copes with the situation: “I can usually push through it if I know at least one person at an event or in a class.”
Zeher said that as senior year approaches, she does not really suffer from the social side of the anxiety. But this was not the case for her during her freshman and sophomore years at Virginia Tech.
“During my freshman and sophomore years I had a lot of social anxiety,” she said. “I was living in a new place and worried that I wouldn’t make any friends.”
Oftentimes when the stresses of school become too much, students begin to rethink their decisions to attend college.
“I question my major at least once a semester,” Zeher said. “When I don’t do as well in a class as I would have wanted, it makes me question my intellect and worth in that subject.”
French shed light on a common concern and frustration among the student population.
“Many of the classes I’m taking don’t actually pertain to what I think I’d like to do later or have any real-world applications,” French said. “I feel like I’m here mostly to get a degree of validation so that I can move on with my life.”
Some of us come out of high school dreaming big and reaching for high career goals. Some of us stick to a track, others change. Caitlin Togher is one of many who came to Tech set on one idea of what they would end up doing.
“I wanted to become a veterinarian for the longest time, through middle and high school, until the end of sophomore year here,” Togher said. “My GPA was not good and it kinda hit me that I will not get into vet school at this point.”
To succeed and thrive in society, a college degree is becoming more of a necessity. This added stress is starting to alter the mindsets of students on attendance.
When asked if it is considered an honor or burden to enroll, Zeher responded that “school feels more like an obligation than a privilege.” Zeher said this is because it’s hard to get a job with just a high school degree, so college is seen as more of a necessity rather than a privilege. Togher had similar sentiments and said it is a privilege because without a college education, she would not be able to achieve certain goals and aspirations in life she has.
“We should value those that learn trade and become specialists without a college degree,” French said. “I hope that in the future we will teach kids that they can become successful by creating their own path in life.”